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‘Smoke and mirrors’: the true picture for British farming prospects distorted as electioneering intensifies

As ministers trumpet the great export potential of British produce, official records are hard to come by. The link to the November Commons EFRA debate does not open and the publication link [below] also does not respond:

handley efraIs this because the true picture  doesn’t sit well with electioneering?

The outlook is bleak for British farmers who don’t have the largest holdings, and who produce perishable foods which can’t be stored until prices rise.

However, thanks to the farming press and correspondence from a dairy farmer, some information is available – and significant.

It is reported that the dairy sector is in a desperate state. MPs have been told that farmers are being paid less for milk than the cost of production. Over four hundred milk producers quit the business in 2014, compared with 200 in 2013.

ffa efra videoGiving evidence to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee – 25/11/14 – the chairman of Farmers For Action, David Handley, said:

“The situation is getting so serious that in the last nine weeks we’ve passed three individual dairy producers on to the Samaritans because they were in such a desperate state and the full impact isn’t yet being seen.”

A link to the video on FFA’s website has been received; to open this go to

George Dunn, chief executive of the Tenant Farmers Association, whose critique of government’s Groceries Code Adjudication process is well worth reading, commented: “This is a horrendous time… We are losing family farming. We have valleys which have had 20 dairy farmers where we have none any more.”

The committee heard that the supply chain needed to be subject to greater scrutiny.

food supply chain diagram

Mr Handley said that the money between the processor and retailer needed to be tracked: “We need to have some honesty and transparency. There is far too much smoke and mirrors. Unless we get proof that global markets are affecting the domestic price then we will continue to blockade”.

george dunn2Is the idea that the prices of milk in the supermarket would rise a ploy to antagonise the public?

Mr Dunn [right] explains: “The question we have been asking is, ‘Where does the money go?’ We might not need to have a higher price, just that we need a fairer share of the market.”

Mr Handley disputed claims that the price cuts were down to global markets, saying: “We find it very suspicious when we are being told that it is [due to] oversupply when 85% of our milk never leaves these shores.”


Will the first Groceries Code Adjudicator be impartial, despite her corporate conditioning?


Christine Tacon, who ran the Co-operative Group’s farming business for 11 years, has been appointed as the first Groceries Code Adjudicator (GCA).

The corporate–friendly conditioning of the new adjudicator, Christine Tacon, for the first eighteen years (1982–2000) took place in sales and marketing for corporates,  including:

  • Mars Confectionery – Milky Way, Savoury Snacks etc,
  • the Great British Lottery Company,
  • Anchor Foods Ltd (now Fonterra) and in
  • studying for an MBA (Cranfield).
Cause for concern – balance sheet rules OK!

In 2003 the Co-operative was one of the biggest dairy farmers in Europe, supplying 30m litres of milk every year. But Ms Tacon – celebrated for ‘forcing out inefficiencies’ (AIC, 2004) –  announced that it was impossible to make a profit from milk production, and withdrew from dairy farming altogether.

 christine tacon


At her alma mater, flouting co-operative convictions and procedure

Also that year, at the National Agricultural Industries Confederation conference at Cranfield, in tune with the dismal Sean Rickard, without consulting the Co-op membership – which is said to own and control it – she said that the company might have to ‘revisit’ its recent announcement of a ban on all things connected with GM – despite the ‘strong anti views’ of members.

Her belief that further work might be needed on the public’s understanding of the issues brings to mind Enron’s Rebecca Mark ‘educating’ people in India and the current corporate political drive to impose GM crops in this country despite unwavering consumer opposition.

We can only hope for better in her new position.


Admirable politician’s work recognised at the Westminster meeting of the Family Farmers’ Association

A Fair Deal award was presented to Andrew George MP during the FFA’s annual October conference organised by livestock farmer Pippa Woods.

On the Westminster committee room Cornish farmer, Fair Deal Council member and video-maker Michael Hart, presented the granite based award made by Sculpture Designer, a co-operative of lead crystal craftsmen formed when Tyrone Crystal went out of business. Right click on picture to get a clearer image.

For years Mr George has been the national chairman of the Grocery Market Action Group (GMAG) which successfully led the campaign to create a watchdog to protect smaller farmers and growers from the unethical practices of supermarket buyers. He brought GMAG together several years ago and it includes representatives from the National Farmers’ Union, the British Independent Fruit Growers Association, Friends of the Earth, ActionAid, Traidcraft, the Association of Convenience Stores, the British Brands Group and many others.

Addressing the House on this subject in 2008

Mr George said, “It’s a great honour to accept this award, but I do so on behalf of many other people who have worked so hard to advance the campaign to make sure that farmers and growers are treated fairly by powerful supermarket buyers.”

Mr George also urged the Prime Minister, Rt. Hon David Cameron MP, to ensure that there was no delay in the Bill’s implementation during Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.

Three days ago it was reported that the Bill to set up a Groceries Code Adjudicator with the role of enforcing the Groceries Code and encouraging compliance with it,  had its second reading debate on 19 November 2012 and that, after the Public Bill Committee has scrutinised it line by line, its report to the House is expected by 18 December 2012.


To read more about Fair Deal Awards go to the Localise West Midlands website.
To read the Bill, download pdf from link on